Marks & Specner Clothing & Home sales were down -2.7% in the six months to 29 September 2018 and the high street giant says its plans to “reshape” its fashion offer and focus on the “family age” consumer.
The drop in sales (like-for-likes in the sector were down -1.1%) was attributed to the fact that M&S is in the midst of a store closure plan and 21 stores were closed during the period, however it admitted that its fashion offer needed work and it needed to do more to attract a younger customer.
“In Clothing & Home our business has an ageing customer base, a very wide range, a weak supply chain and an ageing store portfolio. Despite this, we retain a very strong customer franchise and market position,” said CEO Steve Rowe.
“Our objective is to reshape our buy; reducing the number of options, buying more stylish and contemporary product in greater depth, and to deliver market leading value.”
Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe
“Our objective is to reshape our buy; reducing the number of options, buying more stylish and contemporary product in greater depth, and to deliver market leading value. By focusing on stylish and wearable “Must-Have” essentials and building on our strong customer franchises in denim, lingerie, back to school and workwear, we will shift back towards family aged customers seeking style, quality and value,” he added.
Rowe said the company had already made progress in reducing the number of lines it stocked and had bought deeper into key lines, which had yielded some success already, such as a 3% increase in sales of dresses. It had also reduced the price of a number of key lines, such as its £15 men’s chinos, which had resulted in an 8% increase in sales. However areas of weakness included tops and children’s daywear, Rowe said.
Rowe said the latest fashion marketing campaigns underscored its new approach such as recent “Must Haves” and “Holly’s Picks” campaign with its new style ambassador Holly Willoughby. Its “Love it for Less” campaign sought to promote its commitment to value.
Elsewhere M&S sales were down -3.1% overall at £4.97bn with a 2% improvement in profit before tax & adjusting items of £223.5m. Profit before tax was up 7.1% at £126.7m. Food sales were down -0.2%.
The company said its bid to restructure the business to become digital first was reaping rewards with just over 20.4% of its Clothing & Home sales now coming from e-commerce, and it had seen encouraging “transfer rates” from customers whose usual store had closed moving to the closest alternative.